Help me not be mortified
September 10, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

I did an embarrassing thing yesterday at work.

I called another office to get some information (hours of their office), and was totally taken aback when the woman who answered the phone was someone that my project team had recently had a falling out with (about the project for which I was calling to get information). She asked a question that would lead to me having to give my name (she did not straight up ask for my name) and I was so unprepared for it be her on the phone that I lied and said "I am asking for a friend."

I have no idea if she recognized my voice although I suspect she did, and she definitely could have looked up my phone number to see if it was me. The details of the whole situation are not terribly important to the question, other than that I am mortified that I did this. I am just embarrassed and feel unprofessional and silly.

I really don't think apologizing to her will make me feel better, especially because I have no idea if she even recognized my voice. How can I make myself forget about this faux pas and stop ruminating on it?
posted by raspberrE to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Just tell someone you did it. I find that when I do something really dumb, it helps me to make a funny story about it. Take one of your co-workers aside and say, "You won't believe the idiotic thing I did yesterday, I'm still blushing!" Then tell on yourself.

Honestly, I'm sure it's fine. Who cares what that broad thinks? She can think what she likes, but what's she going to do? Call someone and say, "raspberrE called and lied about who she was." So what? might want to think about an anti-anxiety drug because dwelling on stupid shit is a sign of anxiety. And trust me, I should know!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2013 [16 favorites]

You have to be able to forgive yourself, 'cos you won't be able to undo what happened yesterday. Apologizing to her won't help, as it will confirm to her that you really were the caller. So don't worry about what you can't change.
posted by scruss at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you can fairly and reasonably assure yourself that this was not, in the greater scheme of things, a very serious faux pas. Everyone on earth with access to telephones has had startlingly awkward moments on those phones, some worse than others.

On preview, this is normal human behavior. Worrying about the potential coworker ramifications of a silly thing you did on the job a mere 24 hours later is not a reason to go into therapy and take anti anxiety drugs. Good lord.
posted by elizardbits at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2013 [16 favorites]

Was anyone killed or injured as a result of this? No? Then all is well. (This is often what I use to keep my anxiety riddled brain from freaking out about things.)

And just to give you an example of a funny work story that might make you feel my office, we drive forklifts into narrow aisled stacks. This means that you have to line up the forklift pretty closely otherwise it won't fit in the aisle. However, if you bump the steering wheel when you just get started in an aisle, the lift wheels will turn and it will get stuck. This happened to me on my very first day when I was alone in the office. It was a weekend and I completely lost my shit. I was absolutely terrified that I had broken the forklift and was going to be fired.

On Monday, my boss came in and laughed and told me that everyone gets them stuck in their first week working here and showed me how to get it unstuck.

posted by sperose at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

raspberrE: I called another office to get some information (hours of their office), and was totally taken aback when the woman who answered the phone was someone that my project team had recently had a falling out with (about the project for which I was calling to get information). She asked a question that would lead to me having to give my name (she did not straight up ask for my name) and I was so unprepared for it be her on the phone that I lied and said "I am asking for a friend."

Without the other context in your question, from reading this paragraph I would not have any idea what your problem is. By that I mean, not only do I not think this is a mortifying embarrassment, I barely even register it as a faux pas. It is entirely within the realm of normal human interaction to avoid speaking to a problematic person on the phone by means of subterfuge. Usually I do it by having my wife call, but "I'm asking for a friend" works too. I'll have to remember it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

I freely admit to having faked a "dumb blond" voice and faked a British accent to hide my identity on the phone during weird workplace situations; nothing serious, but more like those weird interpersonal bullcrap situations like you're describing.*

If there is bad blood between this one person and your department, then your boss probably already knows about it; I'd go to your boss and confess, saying that you kind of panicked because hey, you'd only called to ask a question, you didn't call to get attacked by her bullshit, so you were caught off guard. I have a hunch your boss will totally understand.

I can also attest that if you out yourself to your boss, sometimes they appreciate that you came clean and came to them to keep them aware; and sometimes that works to your advantage. I once got into a real hissy fit of an argument with a real diva-ish actor in one of my casts; he was being really condescending, and I lost my temper a bit. That isn't a good thing for a stage manager to do at all, so I went to the company manager after the show and told him, "listen, I don't know if word will get back to you, but just in case - I did a dumb thing, here's how it started, here's the part I played in it, here's how I'm gonna make sure I don't do it again." Not only was the company manager impressed that I was owning my mis-step, he asked a few more questions about what prompted it, concluded that the actor was an even bigger dick than I was giving him credit for, and gave the actor a talking-to about how he needed to treat the rest of the cast and crew. Sometimes your boss will have your back.

* An example: at my old office, you called one main number to reach our travel agency, and it would filter the call to whomever was free at the moment. There was one particular agent who was a total flake, and whenever I got her, I'd fake an accent or a dumb blond voice and say "sorry, wrong number", and then hang up and try again to get someone else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2013

If this is your worst workplace offense, you'd still be a graceful genius compared to most of my past and present co-workers and bosses.

You might view your being mortified as a valuable bad-work-behavior detector (a gadget too many people seem to lack). You did something mildly stupid, and your BWB detector went crazy. Good thing you have it--it'll safeguard you against doing something really stupid down the road.
posted by Rykey at 8:31 AM on September 10, 2013

Oh, yep. Anxiety! You sound like me.

This is completely normal phone awkwardness that happens to us all from time to time, often when we are caught unawares. It's difficult because you are limited by constraints of phone calls, extremely limited time to process, react, and respond for both parties, no facial expressions to read or send out and the ability to make decisions like you did because of the basic 'anonymity'. I personally dislike making telephone calls for these reasons, but they're unavoidable.

Imagine yourself in a few months. Will you remember this incident? Probably not. More importantly, will it factor into your professional life in any significant way? Nope.
So, practice an act of self-control: don't give in to the little voice nagging you that it's worth worrying about. To this thought intrusion, say, "Thank you, but not now."

I'm sure she's already put this 'incident' behind her, if she thought about it more than a few seconds. And if she hasn't, well then, her life is a bit sad. If she were to relate this information to another person, I don't think they would care. They'd probably at least mentally raise an eyebrow about her judgement in being hung up about something trivial.
posted by xiaolongbao at 8:35 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have pretty much accepted that I'm going to be mortified all the time - it's basically the price of ever speaking. It's worth it though, because the alternative would be living like a hermit in a hole with no job, no friends, no internet connection, no sunlight, etc. Eventually, you'll get over this and be mortified about something else. It's ok.

That said, in this particular instance it sounds like there's a very good chance she did not know it was you. And that even if she did, she was more confused or wondering what she was missing than thinking you were unprofessional, etc.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ha. I do worse than this on a daily basis! I'm just a big walking bag of cringe some days. You've just got to forget about it, nothing will come of it, honestly. The cringe will fade with time.
posted by derbs at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Perhaps it may also help to re-frame the incident. You characterize what you did as 'telling a lie.' But it's not so black and white as that. You had no intention to deceive when you picked up the phone. And you were under no real obligation to give your name just because the other party asked questions. And lastly, while this may be a bit of a stretch, you really were not calling just for yourself; you were calling for the benefit of the project you're working on, right? So 'I am asking for a friend' is not really all that far off the mark. Go a little easier on yourself!
posted by fikri at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

She has probably forgotten about this already. Now it is safe for you to forget, too!
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think being mortified over something stupid a day after you've done it is completely normal. It's the natural mechanism that keeps us from continuing to do silly things. I do stupid things very, very often. This is a 1 on a scale of 1-10 of the embarrassing things I've done at work. This is what I do to stop ruminating. I think: What is the WORST case scenario that'll come from this, and how do I handle it?

So if I did this (speaking as someone who has literally hung up on coworkers when they said hello because I froze or expected something different) my worst case scenario would be if woman on the phone (WOTP) finds me in the restroom (ugh) and says to me: "Was that you who called me yesterday about XYZ?"

Me: Yeah it was me. I had a couple things going on while I was on the phone and blurted the wrong thing. Thanks for your help, though!

(let's say it gets worse...)

WOTP: Well, your phone manners need work!

Me: I agree completely. Have a good one!

WOTP: (shoves my head in toilet, gives me a swirlie)

Me: (recovers, calls police, goes to HR, gets WOTP fired)

So that's completely over the top, but like I said, I go with the WORST (minus weapons). If I have a script for the worst, anything else is easy. That's how I begin to forget about it all.

YMMV, but the above works for me.
posted by kimberussell at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a zero percent big deal. You're fine!
posted by something something at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2013

Conveniently, Alison at AskAManager just posted the 10 most awkward work moments, culled from the many, many comments on this post. So if nothing else, you can read what everyone else has done that has been awkward and mortifying, and feel solidarity with everyone else.
posted by brainmouse at 9:11 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Heh, mortifying would be getting loaded at the Christmas party and mistaking a potted plant for the toilet. This was just you sidestepping interaction with someone you didn't feel like engaging. Totally not a big deal. Besides, even if she did notice, why care?
posted by bunji at 9:36 AM on September 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Tell someone else about it, laugh at yourself for a few minutes. Then it'll be easier to let it go.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 12:13 PM on September 10, 2013

Eh, this morning my boss texted, "I love you. Have a great day." to one of my coworkers. He meant to text his son. We all laughed and the coworker texted back, "I love you too!" Stuff happens.
posted by tamitang at 7:53 PM on September 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks, all. I feel better now just with the passing of time, but reading your "chill out" notes and your own mortifying stories helped me get over it.

I marked scruss best answer for : So don't worry about what you can't change. Simple and obvious but helped me a lot and I will keep it in mind for future faux pas incidents...
posted by raspberrE at 3:14 PM on September 11, 2013

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